Fri 24 Apr 2015 2:26AM


SD Sophie Davies Public Seen by 219

Sex is the distinction between males and females based on the biological differences in sexual characteristics.

Sex is a fundamental demographic characteristic used in social and population analysis. It is used to analyse most social statistics such as employment, health, and education. Collecting data on sex is a legal requirement under the Statistics Act 1975.

While the inclusion of sex in the census is not in question, there is potentially a need for changes to the categories used. Currently there are two categories: male and, female. However, some people are born biologically intersex and some people make transitions. Although this group is small, currently they cannot represent their biological sex in this question.

Concerns have been raised about how including an intersex category would affect the quality and comparability of the sex data from the census. Defining what is meant by biologically intersex may be difficult on a self-completed form with finite space. Another potential issue is that including an intersex category may elicit false responses from some respondents.

Our current recommendations relating to sex

  • Collecting data on sex is required by law under the Statistics Act 1975, and will be collected in the 2018 Census.

  • We will do more testing and research to explore the possibility of collecting information on those who are biologically intersex.

See our preliminary view of 2018 Census content (pages 14-15) for a more detailed discussion on sex information.

See 2013 Census information by variable for information on the sex variable.


Lisa (Facilitator) Tue 28 Apr 2015 11:34PM

Kia ora, talofa, hello, and welcome to the Census 2018 discussion on Sex. Statistics New Zealand wants to know what people think, so here’s your chance to have your say. I am really looking forward to hearing from you on this topic.

I am also facilitating the discussions on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.


Megan Bowra-Dean Fri 1 May 2015 3:39AM

Beyond the absolutely necessary inclusion of intersex people, there needs to be more clarification as to what Statistics New Zealand defines as sex and whether for trans people, it's affected by the dominant sex hormone in their bodies.

Sex is collected for analysis of employment, health and education. More often it is perceived gender that affects employment statistics rather than biology. Employers don't check down our pants or do a blood test for sex hormones before considering whether to employ us or not. Health is another mixed bag. Sex hormones affect typically gendered health issues, not just genitals.


Megan Bowra-Dean Fri 1 May 2015 3:49AM

I would also note that many of the arguments for not including sexual orientation in the census due to complexity and relevance outside of a health context also apply to the case for including sex on the census. If it wasn't for the legal requirement, I would question why there is a double standard.


Lisa (Facilitator) Fri 1 May 2015 4:15AM

Welcome @meganbowradean1 . You raised some great points! See here for a Statistics New Zealand definition and discussion of Sex, which says trans people should choose the sex they are living as. Do trans people have trouble answering this question?


C. H. Rose Sat 2 May 2015 12:30AM

Yes. I am entirely biologically female - I am not and currently do not have plans to change this. As a non-binary person, I would choose simply not to answer (and risk nullifying my census) before I checked female, regardless of if it is technically, medically correct.

However if there was an option for ticking assigned female at birth but otherwise identifying (in a more succinct way), I would happily tick that.


C. H. Rose Sat 2 May 2015 12:41AM

Also the issue of "false responses" with regards to including intersex people is in my opinion irrelevant. Including it would achieve two incredibly important goals - both by allowing real data to emerge on a area in which we as a society need to vastly improve and by, you know … doing the right thing as a country by acknowledging that intersex people are real rather than further institutionally discriminating against them?

That's my thought anyway - obviously as I am not intersex my opinion is far less relevant than that of someone who lives this life experience.


Kay Sat 2 May 2015 12:59AM

Professor Milton Diamond estimates that based on biological data, 1 in 100 people has an intersex condition ( a term covering a range of different chromosomal and biological features). Only 1 in 2,000 people may appear sufficiently different to come to medical attention early in life. A Census question on sex as in male or female and/or intersex would be useful and is needed for raising awareness and future planning. The resulting data should be flagged as being an underestimate because some people don't know they are intersex. Finding out may relate to adult medical examinations to identify causes of reproductive infertility, and not all intersex people seek to have children. Examples include Turner syndrome (XO a female variant) and some with androgen insensitivity condition (XY but presenting female). Some people may identify as both male (or female) AND with an intersex condition. While this variation may be more difficult for Statistics to accommodate, that isn't a reason to ignore the issue.


Rowan Burnett-Jones Sat 2 May 2015 2:42AM

I feel like I sometimes have trouble ticking female for sex as well - being genderfluid. But as well as that NZ has an option for a third or other option on our passports just marked as X don't we, whats to stop us using that for the census - it's already a governmentally recognised definer.
Also like Megan said the sex question is generally more treated as a gender question not a health question, so shouldn't its options reflect that.


Lisa (Facilitator) Sat 2 May 2015 8:18AM

Thanks @rowanburnettjones, @kayscarlet and @chrose for joining the discussion and providing your views and knowledge. It is fantastic to have both facts and experiences. It seems X is used by the Department of Internal Affairs to incorporate both sex AND gender identity, so may not be so useful in the census context where it is vital to keep sex - a legal requirement - separate from gender identity.


Kay Sun 3 May 2015 4:58AM

Lisa said " it is vital to keep sex - a legal requirement - separate from gender identity" .... but this a circular argument. Sex (by which many people think of gender) is a legal requirement because that is how the law is currently worded. Laws can be changed, as with the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act 2013 which defines marriage as "the union of 2 people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity". That Act refers to sex and to gender identity to ensure that the emphasis on the couple not any distinctive features. If a law changes is needed (and I don't believe it is) then it could be facilitated through the annual Statutes Amendment Bill for minor legal changes.


Ella Anais Mon 4 May 2015 1:59AM

Can it be called "assigned sex at birth"?


Megan Bowra-Dean Mon 4 May 2015 2:04AM

@ellaanais As I noted in my comments earlier, due to the effect of sex hormones and what these statistics are used for, it makes little sense for trans people to provide their assigned birth sex for this question. It's also quite distressing to list yourself as your birth sex when it has little bearing on your current identity.


Megan Bowra-Dean Mon 4 May 2015 2:07AM

@LisaAtStats I would say it's not too difficult for binary identified trans people to answer this question (I answer it with my current sex) but many non-binary trans people may find it distressing to answer this with only two options, neither of which is entirely accurate for them.


C. H. Rose Mon 4 May 2015 4:55AM

I think the really important thing - both for the sex and gender identity question - is to get an idea of how many people in New Zealand are not cis. Could it not be possible to preface any gender or sex questions with this query? And from there people could select male, female or other, with other splitting into a number of pre-defined options and an ability to write in?


Lisa (Facilitator) Tue 5 May 2015 9:02AM

@deb (topic expert) can you please give us a demographers view on why sex and gender identity should be (or don't need to be) kept distinct...

Also just going to provide (or attempt to...) a few definitions for people who are not familiar with some of the terms being used here. I am not trying to incorporate every nuance, just give a general simplistic understanding.

Binary: (in this context): male or female.
Non binary: (in this context): doesn't identify with either male or female
Cis / cisgender: someone whose sex assigned at birth and gender identity match (i.e. a newborn announced as a girl grows up to identify as a woman) (seemingly a lot of the population - many of whom are unaware of this word / these words)


Rogena Sterling Thu 14 May 2015 10:57PM

It is important to get something straight from the beginning. The current definition is not biological but medical. There is not a “distinction between males and females based on the biological differences in sexual characteristics,” except by fiat, standardisation.
In life, each element of ‘sexual characteristics’ as it has been called, in themselves are not indicative of anything by themselves. The development of ‘sex biology’ is not a linear process. Moreover, it is the brain and associated biology which ultimately determines one’s ‘sex biology. (I don’t have time and space to go into the complexity of biology, although it is interesting.)
That is to say, ideological hegemony has been used to create a binary for political and not biological purposes. This brings it back to a circular issue of gender identity.
When one is born, a ‘sex’ is assigned. This is an assigned sex, not one’s sex identity. That is a political sex.
The question needs to be asked: Is this about an imposed sex or sex identity?
Sex identity cannot and should not be decided by doctors. That is an abuse of human rights.


Deb Potter Fri 15 May 2015 6:00AM

Thanks for the invite to this conversation Lisa and thank you everyone for your thoughts and input.
Sex is one of the four key ingredients for demography – the others being age, location and ethnicity. One of the main demographic uses of Census sex data is for population estimates and projections. There is high demand for this information at regional levels for planning service provision.
While sex is the term described by legislation, the actual Census question design is not so proscriptive. It is entirely open for people to describe themselves as male or female: (eg Are you…?) We understand that the data we collect from this is self-defined at the time of the collection and represents how the individual sees themselves. Demographers recognise that people may not fit within either of these two categories and we are investigating the implications of changing how the data is collected.

Deb Potter


Rogena Sterling Fri 15 May 2015 7:00AM

I have been told that adding intersex will causes issues with demography. Can Deb Potter please explain why? and secondly how this explantion justifies the exclusion of a group of people who at estimation should be between 2-4% of the population?


Lisa (Facilitator) Tue 19 May 2015 5:18AM

Hi and welcome @rogenasterling. If we do more testing and research around introducing 'intersex' to the 'Sex' question, as currently recommended here, then any issues for demographers could be addressed then and weighed up with other issues.

Thanks for sharing your concerns about the wording and conceptualisation of Sex. Others have discussed the difference between Sex and Sex assigned at birth. When is there a need to differentiate between these two? (or between sexual identity and assigned sex if that is the preferred terminology).


Rogena Sterling Tue 19 May 2015 9:44PM

Thank you @lisaatstats for your reply, but the human rights need for intersex inclusion is clear. This is something that you seem to agree on.
This leaves to important questions in your answer which are very important for the people on this discussion board:
First, what is the testing and research you mentioned?
Secondly, what issues need to be addressed and weighed up?


Rogena Sterling Tue 19 May 2015 9:46PM

If you are focusing the question on identity, rather than biology, the situation becomes clearer and simpler. Having discussions previously, this is never really made clear and the explanations traverse biology and identity and do not demarcate between the two.


Lisa (Facilitator) Thu 21 May 2015 4:08AM

Hi @rogenasterling : a generic answer to your questions, as Statistics New Zealand follows a process, and this is not really the forum to go into detail. But briefly, when proposing to change responses we research what those categories could be, test to ensure aspects like understandability, and that the concept of the question has not changed, and examine the implications of changing how the data is collected (as mentioned by @debpotter). It's often iterative as this process often brings up issues that need to be addressed.

Issues raised here in Loomio and in the (more formal) submissions process will also be addressed within the process. At the moment this includes issues such as: do we want to collect sex or sexual identity and in what ways do the differences matter? is the definition appropriate?

What other aspects do people want considered?


Poll Created Fri 29 May 2015 4:48AM

The Sex question needs to be clearer. Closed Mon 1 Jun 2015 4:08AM

by Lisa (Facilitator) Wed 26 Apr 2017 11:33AM

There was agreement it is not clear what the census Sex question is currently asking (i.e. sex or something else like gender identity). Many people also mentioned the need to clarify what is being used to define Sex.

It needs to be clearer that the question is collecting sex (and not, for example, gender identity).


Results Option % of points Voters
Agree 100.0% 7 CE K RS MB JKS DM LM
Abstain 0.0% 0  
Disagree 0.0% 0  
Block 0.0% 0  
Undecided 0% 3 SD L T

7 of 10 people have voted (70%)


Duncan Matthews
Fri 29 May 2015 4:53AM

We need to have clearer data on the sex of New Zealanders, and the diversity of sex within NZ, to know where our gaps in service are.


Jennifer Katherine Shields
Fri 29 May 2015 5:28AM

Conditional agreement: if you're going to collect it (which I dont necessarily agree with) it needs to be clear that you're collecting sex /and/ what you mean by sex. There also needs to be options for intersex ppl.


Rogena Sterling
Fri 29 May 2015 6:15AM

the proposal is not clear. Who determines one's sex? What is the definition of sex without medicalisation?


Fri 29 May 2015 9:54AM

Either ask what a person's current legal documents of identity state (M or F or X), as 1 Q AND ask about how people identify. OR ask for Sex meaning gender identity. Many people wd give same A to both Qs. Info about size of discrepancy is essential


Colin England
Sun 31 May 2015 12:47AM

Seems to me that this question needs to be in two parts. One question asking for the persons biological sex (M, F, Other) and the other asking for their gender (M, F, Other).


Megan Bowra-Dean
Sun 31 May 2015 6:49AM

Agreement conditional on any clarification on the definition of sex actually being grounded in logical health reasons. i.e. Sex hormones not genitals/birth assignment.


Rogena Sterling
Sun 31 May 2015 7:38AM

This must not be based on medicalisation.
Conditional agreement on there being a category that encompasses non-bnary pepole including intersex people, eg from passport/driver's licence which legally recognises non-binary


lois matheson
Mon 1 Jun 2015 3:48AM

I think there is a need for clearer information about biological sex (including intersex and transgendered people who have changed their sex). If the sex question is going to be broadened it needs to be clear what it is asking.


Lisa (Facilitator) Fri 29 May 2015 4:51AM

Hi everyone

A proposal has just been started, stating the sex question needs to be clearer. You can find it, and vote, at the top right of this page. This will be the first of a series of proposals.

Proposals are being used to try and sum up the discussion and get a quick snapshot on what people’s views on this issue currently are. Proposals are a way of not only checking where everyone is at with their thinking but drawing more people into the discussion. You can find a guide of how to use proposals here.

Proposals are not being used in the 2018 Census engagement discussion as a final decision making tool.

The proposal closes on Tuesday at 4pm. However the discussion stays open until the 10th of June, so feel free to keep talking!


Rogena Sterling Fri 29 May 2015 6:07AM

I agree with the two people above. Sex is much more complicated than the 'definition given by Stats NZ'.
However, if they continue as they currently do mixing 'assigned sex' and identity, then nothing will change.

Right from birth, a person's sex begins to develop and this continues at least through adolescence and then through the rest of one's life. Sex is a combination of both physical and social elements, which becomes one's sex, and part of one's identity.
The biological is complicated, and cannot be taken as a glance between the legs at birth, nor what is assigned by medical professionals if there is any 'ambiguity.
The biological elements will not not come to light till late infancy. moreover, only that person will know their sex. That person will connect the 'biological' elements, including those of intersex conditions, through the brain with any other aspects such as physological which becomes the sex that person identifies with.

So when it declared that sex question of sex needs to be made clearer, then really what is the judment of sex? Medical? or?
The proposal is no further ahead than when this discussion began about one month ago.
The only reasonable answer would be to state one's sex as one of three options: male, female, or non-binary (I choose non-binary, as there are many possible names to cover those who are not fitting with the binary of male-female - this is a secondary discussion once this option becomes accepted).


Lisa (Facilitator) Fri 29 May 2015 8:03AM

Thanks @duncanmatthews, @jenniferkatherines and @rogenasterling for starting off the voting and your valuable comments alongside.

We are aware there are a lot of people watching these discussions, who haven't yet commented. These proposals are also an opportunity for those people to get their point of view heard. I think this proposal is a good platform to start from, allowing comment from people with a variety of views, before initiating proposals that delve deeper into the issues. It can also help identify future proposal ideas, as you have done @jenniferkatherines and @rogenasterling.

This thread has had some interesting discussions about the purpose and use of the Sex data, as well as what is meant (by Statistics NZ, by others) by 'Sex', so for us the last month has been very useful and has prompted some possible solutions. It would be great to have more discussion, by both old and new members, in the next couple of weeks.


Rogena Sterling Fri 29 May 2015 7:56PM

I agree with Kay's comment. Those who have legal douments as X should have the option of that on the census. It is the least complicated, verifiable (somethings Stats NZ is worried about), and provides dignity and human rights to those of us who are not binary, including intersex people


Megan Bowra-Dean Sun 31 May 2015 6:50AM

Also with room for intersex people


Lisa (Facilitator) Fri 5 Jun 2015 4:36AM

So a next step, as identified by @jenniferkatherines and @rogenasterling, seems to be to discuss what we mean by sex.

So if we mean sex and not gender identity, and not sex assigned at birth, and not sexual identity, what do we mean? If we want to collect data about people's current 'sex' which intersex people, trans people, non binary people, and others can answer, what should the concept of sex include and exclude?

Or should we be collecting something else?


Rogena Sterling Fri 5 Jun 2015 5:34AM

Gender(sex) identity is the actual correct term, but beecause that now has a connotation of 'transgender', people are confused. Gender identity is the self-authored and identified perception of who one is. This male be male, female, or a non-binary identity.
Biology is only one part of our sex identity, the is a large social compontent as well which together make one's sex identity.
Ideally, it should be self-identified.
The only option is to refer to passport or driver's licence.


judith davey Sun 7 Jun 2015 8:50PM

If it is seen as important, as a matter of human rights, for people to have an alternative to male and female. Why now just add "other" to the options and leave a ......................... for people to fill in a term which they feel describes them. I cannot think that this will apply to a huge proportion of the population.


Lisa (Facilitator) Thu 11 Jun 2015 12:59AM

As many people have referred to, both the NZ Transport Agency (who issue drivers licences) and The Department of Internal Affairs (who issue passports) allow for the option of 'indeterminate / unspecified' ('X').

NZLA refer to 'sex / gender' where DIA refer to 'sex / gender identity'.

In this Census discussion the needs and rationale (and proposed answer categories) for Sex (whatever we mean by that) seem to be very different from those in the Gender Identity discussion, so Statistics New Zealand would need to differentiate between the two.

How do we do this? What do we call it? Sex identity and Sex assigned at birth have been suggested - and these are different concepts. Or another suggestion was to drop sex and ask about gender identity. Thoughts, anybody?


Megan Bowra-Dean Thu 11 Jun 2015 3:00AM

I feel like a broken record here but sex assigned at birth is not an appropriate question to ask and makes little sense in how the statistics are used for health. Gender/sex identity is at least a little more accurate with regards to health needs.


Rogena Sterling Thu 11 Jun 2015 3:15AM

Like Megan, I also feel like a broken record.
Sex assigned at birth cannot be used. It is the imposition of an identity by an outside source that may or may not relfect the person. A person's sex identity (culmination of both biological and social characteristics) is the only way.
Gender is the modern name for sex. Sex has been divded from gender by medicine specifically to enable its access and production of human bodies. (I don not have time to go into history here.) Thus, what is called gender today, is what is referred to in the past (prior to the word gender being used) as sex.
I acknowledge that the law states that Stats NZ must count sex, however, in law, the only characteristics used to define sex and gender ( the social-biological).
The law, must rely on reality, not a legal fiction. Sex as a binary is a legal fiction to uphold socio-political ideals.
It is time for Stats NZ to apply human rights of sex/gender identity as self-determined and autonomous. Failing to do that, it an abuse of human rights and something, the department cannot afford to go down.


Lisa (Facilitator) Thu 11 Jun 2015 8:00AM

Sorry @meganbowradean1 and @rogenasterling that you feel like broken records - yes you both have stated your positions quite clearly before. I am hoping to also get replies from other people in this thread (or new people) who haven't addressed these questions, before going onto other questions...


Kay Thu 11 Jun 2015 8:42AM

With respect to views expressed by Rogena, and to some extent by Megan, I think questions in the Census on Sex and on Gender Identity, should consider including the option of legal status even where this status is deficient on a scientific basis. Showing respect for a person's self identification as being the most important attribute in recognising gender would be a positive move and possible if society was equal and fair and any needed medical procedures were available and fully funded. That isn't the case now.

To show that there is an unrecognised need for greater support in health services, education, accommodation and a whole range of institutional services requires statistics we haven't got now. If a person has fully transitioned and has documents of identity matching their gender identity and requires no more health service support than any other New Zealander, that person may wish to identify sex (as legally defined on documents) and gender identity (as self identified) as the same. People should have the option of consistent identification. Some people may be willing to tick an additional box for sex assigned at birth if this is different. Other people may find this insulting and intrusive.

Some people find a range of questions on the Census insulting and intrusive e.g. level of income. Providing information is sought for valid reasons, made anonymous, and kept confidential, and there is the ability to not answer a question, I think questions clarifying the legal inconsistencies should be considered.

If the Census recorded people who identify their sex (as legally defined on documents) and their gender identity (as self identified) as being different, that would enable a start to be made on quantifying gender diversity in the population. A measure of diversity would be relevant for planning services and funding for some people who are marginalised and need more support than they currently receive. Other posters like Kabel have referred to the broken record of describing needs that are ignored because the size of the group isn't proven.

Enabling post-transition people to exclude themselves from a gender diverse group where legal sex does not match gender identity may result in an under-estimate of potential population diversity. This should nevertheless be implemented to recognise the reality of transition. This aspect of the questions could be reviewed in subsequent years.

For now, I think it is important to include (legal) Sex and (self identified) Gender Identity, and to permit Prefer not to say for either option. The data gathered is likely to be an underestimate of gender diverse people but it would still provide more information than we currently have.


Lisa (Facilitator) Fri 19 Jun 2015 4:24AM

Loomio discussions AND the submissions close on the 30th June.

There has been some high quality discussion in this thread and I strongly encourage you to make a formal submission.

While all the discussions on Loomio will be formally assessed, your best opportunity to influence census content is to make a submission.


Lisa (Facilitator) Fri 19 Jun 2015 4:37AM

In the Preliminary Views paper there is discussion about the intersex population. In this thread the discussion has been wider than consideration of the intersex population. So I am going to open up a proposal to check what people think. Apologies if you think I am going over the same ground...


Poll Created Fri 19 Jun 2015 4:41AM

Adding 'intersex' to the 'male' and 'female' responses would allow people to answer the Sex question. Closed Wed 24 Jun 2015 4:07AM

by Lisa (Facilitator) Wed 26 Apr 2017 11:33AM

Those who voted agreed adding 'intersex' would be helpful, but non voters commented 'intersex' was too narrow and a different or additional option would be better.

The Preliminary Views paper mentions the intersex population. However discussion in this thread has included other populations. So is adding 'intersex' (or biologically intersex or something similar) a solution ('agree'), or does the solution need to be broader than this ('disagree')?


Results Option % of points Voters
Agree 100.0% 2 RS DM
Abstain 0.0% 0  
Disagree 0.0% 0  
Block 0.0% 0  
Undecided 0% 3 SD L T

2 of 5 people have voted (40%)


Rogena Sterling
Sat 20 Jun 2015 1:57AM

If the anser is purely looking t biology, then that is the correct answer. However, that would not be the appropriate form by which Stats NZ correlate other data which is baed on gender.
For simplicity, YES


Duncan Matthews
Sun 21 Jun 2015 9:15PM

Assuming Gender is captured separately, then this is a better question to ask about sex designated at birth.


Lisa (Facilitator) Fri 19 Jun 2015 4:46AM

Hi everyone

A proposal has just been started, stating that adding 'intersex' to the 'male' and 'female' responses would allow people to answer the Sex question.

You can find it, and vote, at the top right of this page.

Proposals are being used to try and sum up the discussion and get a quick snapshot on what people’s views on this issue currently are. Proposals are a way of not only checking where everyone is at with their thinking but drawing more people into the discussion. You can find a guide of how to use proposals here.

Proposals are not being used in the 2018 Census engagement discussion as a final decision making tool.

The proposal closes on Monday at 4pm. However the discussion stays open until the 30th of June, so feel free to keep talking!


Kay Sat 20 Jun 2015 2:01AM

The question and commentary are contradictory. Some may say No don't add intersex because (like some doctors) they only recognise M or F as valid options. Some may say No because including intersex but not transitioning people would ignore reality.

"Adding 'intersex' to the 'male' and 'female' responses would allow (SOME) people to answer the Sex question." more easily.

This addition would be better than no change.

The Preliminary Views paper mentions the intersex population. However discussion in this thread has included other populations. So is adding ‘intersex’ (or biologically intersex or something similar) a solution ('agree’), or does the solution need to be broader than this ('disagree’)?

And yes, the solution should be broader than M, F, and I.

I would prefer M, F, I, and X or M, F, and X where X is broader than I. I do not want to have just M and F as this doesn't reflect reality and is unhelpful in health and service planning.

I don't want to answer this question. Binary responses are sometimes inadequate (just like only M or F).


judith davey Sun 21 Jun 2015 8:55PM

Prefer to add "other" with space for respondents to put their own category


Lisa (Facilitator) Mon 29 Jun 2015 9:49PM

It's all closing today - Loomio discussions and the submissions.

So there is still time to make a formal submission or put down your last thoughts here.

Thanks for contributing.